BROWNING, Elizabeth Barrett (1806-1861). Autograph letter signed ('Elizabeth Barrett Browning') to James Russell Lowell, Pisa, 17 December 1846, written on one bifolium, 3 pages, 8°. (Last leaf with slight browning and minor marginal tear causing loss.)
E.B. BROWNING. 'The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim's Point', in: The Liberty Bell. By Friends of Freedom. Boston, MA: Andrews and Prentiss for National Anti-Slavery Bazaar, 1848, pp.29-44. 12° (178 x 115mm). Half-title, etched additional title, illustrations. (Occasional light spotting and marking, some light browning.) Original cloth, upper cover blocked in gilt with 'liberty bell' design, lower cover similarly blocked in blind, both with blind-ruled borders, spine gilt, gilt edges (extremities lightly rubbed, light marking on covers, splits down hinges and across spine), morocco-backed slipcase.
A FINE, APPARENTLY UNPUBLISHED LETTER BY THE NEWLY-WED BROWNING on her happiness in Italy, Lowell's Conversations, and 'The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim's Point'. Browning and the American poet James Russell Lowell (1819-1891) had been correspondents since 1842, when he had solicited contributions from her for his magazine The Pioneer. In the 1840s Lowell had become heavily involved with the American Anti-Slavery Society, and in 1845 Browning had discussed contributing a poem to the cause with him. After thanking Lowell for the gift of his Conversations on Some of the Old Poets, she apologises for her tardiness, explaining that, not only was she 'driven by a great wind of vexatious circumstances, altogether from [her] purpose', but was also distracted by the new-found freedom of her marriage on 12 September 1846: 'I am only three months married & in this sudden glare of light & happiness, here in Italy, after my long years of imprisonment in sickness & depression'. Eventually she finished the poem, for despite these distractions, 'Ill or well, sad or joyful ... the great antislavery cause must always be dear to me;- and for the sake ... as much of American honour as of general mercy and right.' She concludes with her fear that her feelings may be stated 'too bitterly & passionately for publication in your country', and seem impertinent of a foreigner addressing Americans; however, it is done in very full consciousness that the British 'have scarcely done washing our national garments clear of the dust of the very same reproach ... I have written this poem precisely because, as an Englishwoman ought, I love & honour the American people'. The letter's existence is recorded in P. Kelly et al. (eds) The Brownings' Correspondence (Winfield, KS: 1984-98), no.2,664, who cite a Goodspeed's catalogue offering it and quote a sentence from the catalogue, stating that it is 'since lost'. The letter therefore appears to be unpublished in extenso. (2)